Despite massive opposition, in 2015 the former Sinn Fein/DUP Executive transferred devolved powers from Stormont back to Westminster to allow the Tory government to implement welfare reforms here.
Financial mitigations were agreed to protect the most vulnerable but it’s already clear they don’t go anywhere near far enough.
The consequence is that more misery will be heaped on working class communities already suffering high levels of deprivation and marginalisation.
The transition of people from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to Personal Independence Payments (PIP) has been a total disaster.
Thousands have seen their PIP applications rejected on spurious grounds by medical assessors in privately run companies.
The roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) is being staggered geographically across the north. UC replaces Income Support, Income Based Jobseekers Allowance, Income Related Employment and Support Allowance, Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.
During the transition onto Universal Credit people are left without any financial support for five weeks – but this can be much longer if there are any difficulties with a claim.
The Tories promoted UC as a way help people get back into work and ‘to make work pay’ but it’s clear the point is cut spending on benefits.
The attack on benefits is entirely ideological with the goal of destroying the social safety net.
There’s a widespread notion UC and benefit cuts will only impact those who are out of work.
However, many working people who receive any kind of benefits will be directly impacted.
For example, low-paid workers will be required to work more hours as a condition of receiving UC.
Workers who are in insecure work, low-pay or who have difficulties accessing childcare will be impacted.
People living with disabilities will be among the hardest hit by welfare reforms.
There is already much evidence of deaths, including suicides, as a result of benefits sanctions in England where welfare reform has already been implemented. As a result of the cuts food banks have been overwhelmed, as have welfare advice centres attempting to help people navigate changes and stay financially afloat.
A broad joined-up campaign is desperately needed to protect people from the worst aspects of benefit cuts and to scrap welfare reform policies hurting the most vulnerable and working poor.